Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow

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There was a time when Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows made some oblique kind of post-ironic statement. Now they’ve moved beyond that. I wonder if that makes them post-post-ironic?

I wouldn’t know what that is, but the fact is the Silver Shadow is the car that democratised the Rolls-Royce brand. It was an off-the-peg item of luxury roadwear, built in far greater numbers than any Rolls-Royce before. All in, Rolls made more than 32,000 Shadows and Bentley T-series companion models from 1965 to 1980.

Back then, all you needed to own one was a lot of money. But these days Shadows are more a more common sight at UK classic car auctions than Triumph Stags – and they’re around the same price! Shadows really have never been cheaper.

Be clear, these are not investment-grade appreciating assets. Indeed, it’s even arguable that they are not yet fully depreciated. In other words, you’d have be mad to want to one. But when you take in just how much walnut, Wilton and well-being you get for so little, there’s no doubt madness makes a certain kind of sense.

The October 1965 debut of the Silver Shadow was a watershed for Rolls-Royce. For once a new model’s genesis came about not through evolution, but revolution. Rolls-Royce’s first monocoque the off-the-peg Silver Shadow was one more nail in the coffin for the dwindling number of bespoke coachbuilders. This new Rolls for the modern world was thoroughly modern.

John Blatchley’s elegant understated pared-back styling did away with the bludgeoning upper-crust pomp of the old Cloud. The Shadow also sported Citroen’s self-levelling hydraulic suspension and braking system, with discs all-round, and there was independent rear suspension, too. About the only major components that weren’t new were the 6.2-litre aluminium V8 and the GM automatic gearbox.

Throughout, the appointments and workmanship were of the highest order, for in one sense this was still an old-school Roller, built up to a standard rather than down to a price. It’s said that one of the reasons the Shadow’s gestation took so long was because of the edict that nothing should make more noise than the clock. Perhaps that’s why the clock ticks so loudly, a clever bit of lateral thinking.

Neither did Rolls sit back on its laurels, enlarging the engine to 6.75 litres in 1970 and reworking the suspension to significantly improve handling in 1972.

On the 1977 Shadow 2, which sported the rubber impact bumpers as standard, much more precise rack-and-pinion steering and split-level aircon were among the improvements.

Now that you want one, you’re probably best off buying the best. Replacing rusty sills, for example, could easily cost £8,000-plus as it entails removing doors, seats and carpet trim, and a partial re-spray afterwards.

Ongoing proper maintenance matters far more than mileage with a Shadow, and while lots of things are costly, they made enough of them for there to be a competitive parts aftermarket. Alternatively, buying a £2,000 car as a spares donor could save you money.

However, there is also the post-post-ironic approach. Buy a £3,000-£5,000 Saddo with a few ‘issues’, paint it in zebra livery with household emulsion and have a laugh for a bit. When it gives up the ghost turn the seats into furniture, as they’ve done on BBC’s Top Gear, and sell off the rest bit by bit on e-bay. What with the cost of leather furniture these days you could come out on top. How’s that, Rolls ownership for free.

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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Statistics

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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Versions View All

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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow coupe


Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow dhc


Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow LWB


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